Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Assault on Precinct 13

#727 TSPDT

No one will ever make a film as ridiculously bad-ass as John Carpenter's 1976 film, Assault on Precinct 13. I had my doubts. First, my schlock-obsessed friend Sam D. raved about it, then a trailer I saw embedded in a review over at Shooting Down Pictures had me ROFL. But after watching it, I have to admit, this is seriously, hands-down, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, a 110% kick-you-in-the-nuts masterpiece.

Where do I begin? Lets start with the score. John Carpenter (who you most likely know as the director of Halloween) broke out his synthesizer and drum machine, simultaneously tapped into the titanium power of a Led Zeppelin rock ballad and the straightforward, fuck-it simplicity of The Clash, and wound up influencing an entire generation of hip-hoppers, rappers, and bad 80's pop and fusion. (Hint: try singing the chorus of Falco's 1985 crapterpiece Rock Me Amadeus over the film's opening theme).

The plot slowly builds to an explosive trifecta. The LAPD assigns Ethan Bishop, newly promoted California Highway Patrol lieutenant, to run the nearly abandoned Precinct 13 station (perched in the middle of an urban wasteland) on the last night of its existence. A prisoner transport bus passing through the area reluctantly makes an unexpected layover at the station when one of the prisoners becomes ill. And a suicidal and fantastically interracial gang, after polishing off an ice-cream man and a little girl, chase the girl's father straight to the station.

Made on a dime, Carpenter works up to this critical mass with a series of suspenseful (and conveniently cost-effective) shots of moving vehicles. Alternating between the gang's menacing drive byes, Ethan's perplexedly long stroll to Precinct 13 (he spends a good 8 hours driving through LA before arriving at the station), and several scenes of cop/prisoner repartee on the transport bus.

Once these threads converge on the abandoned station, we witness one of the most satisfying orgasms of violence ever committed to film. Add to that the unexpected (and unforced) buddy motif that develops between the black Lieutenant Ethan and the white, convicted murderer Napoleon, and you've got a 110% kick-you-in-the-nuts masterpiece. Watch this. Immediately.

Check out the trailer:

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